Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is required by most lenders when a borrower puts less than 20% down on a purchase loan. Paid for by the borrower, PMI not only protects the lender from foreclosure, it also enables many buyers to qualify for loans and purchase real estate when they couldn't have otherwise. On January 1st, 2007, legislation went into effect making PMI tax deductible for new borrowers whose personal adjusted gross income is $100,000 or less. This has created additional opportunities for many buyers to finance a more expensive home or, in some cases, to obtain a lower monthly payment, while reducing annual income taxes.
An alternative financing option that borrowers may also consider involves taking out two home loans concurrently. The second loan, commonly referred to as a "piggyback loan", can take the form of a traditional home loan or a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). It supplements the borrower's funds to help them achieve a 20% down payment, eliminating the need for PMI. However, in most cases PMI can be cancelled once the accumulated equity has reached 20% of the home's value, while a second home loan will have to be paid back in full regardless. Factor in the new PMI tax benefit, and a borrower's monthly payment may actually be lower with PMI versus a piggyback loan scenario.
Choosing PMI is not a one-size-fits-all decision. It is my job to weigh my borrowers' long-term goals and to provide comprehensive solutions that clearly explain all of the pros and cons of each mortgage option available. It's a job I take very seriously.